The Hitman’s Bodyguard falls into the bucket of mindless summer entertainment that offers a decent-enough cinematic escape for anyone willing to accept the movie for what it is and not over-analyze its foibles. Ryan Reynolds channels his Deadpool sarcasm to play Michael Bryce, a down-on-his-luck “protection agent” (i.e. bodyguard) who is called upon to safely transport his nemesis, notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel “Snakes on a Plane” L. Jackson) to the Hague so he can testify against brutal East European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). It’s a familiar formula: The clock is ticking. If the witness doesn’t get to the Hague before a 24-hour deadline, the evil dictator will surely walk free. Cue the overlong gun battles, myriad car and motorcycle chases, and outlandish boat escapes as Dukhovich’s cronies take aim at Bryce and Kincaid.
Thankfully, the chemistry and banter between the pair goes a long way in salvaging a flick that is basically an action-fueled buddy comedy with a small but standout performance from Salma Hayek as Kincaid’s incarcerated wife Sonia. She is a force to be reckoned with behind bars and (as we see in flashbacks) at bars. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is rated R for violence (there is a high body count and a brief torture scene) and language (it’s Samuel L. Jackson – there’s a lot of M-F’in cursing going on!), but it’s not nearly as bloody and brutal as, say, Atomic Blonde, which made me a bit squeamish. You may not remember The Hitman’s Bodyguard an hour after leaving the theater, but hey – summer is fleeting too. Note: there’s a cute outtake during the end credits that’s worth sticking around for if you’re a Ryan Reynolds fan.
Logan Lucky is best described as a ‘Hillbilly’ Ocean’s Eleven (or 12, or 13) which seems fitting, considering it’s directed by native-southerner Steven Soderbergh who helmed the Ocean’s franchise (and Magic Mike too!). It’s a quirky, well-crafted heist movie set in West Virginia and North Carolina, and it features a sharp comedic slant, a heavy southern drawl, some poignant and dramatic moments, a soundtrack that prominently features John Denver, and a strong ensemble cast led by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike). Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a divorced dad who’s trying to do right by his kid and make an honest living in construction. But after he’s fired for having a bum leg (deemed a “pre-existing condition”), Jimmy sets out to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the midst of the wildy-popular Coca-Cola 600 race. Jimmy enlists the help of his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a one-armed bartender who figures the heist will go a long way in reversing a family curse (Clyde had his lower arm blown off by an IED on his way home from the war in Iraq). Also in on the plan: their spunky beautician sister Mellie (Riley Keough), an incarcerated safe-blowing expert named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), and Bang’s country-bumpkin brothers who claim to be “IT experts”. Logan Lucky was written by Rebecca Blunt, allegedly a pseudonym for… someone. Stand up, “Rebecca”! Take credit. The script is good – and so is the movie.
Patti Cake$ is an indie drama that turned me off at first (because I’m not a fan of rap or hip-hop) but thoroughly won me over by the final beat. It’s about a white, plus-size young woman named Patti Dubrowski, a.k.a Killa P, a.k.a Patti Cakes, a.k.a Dumbo (by the local bullies) who is determined to escape life in her downtrodden New Jersey town by gaining fame and glory as a rap artist. Patti (Danielle Macdonald) finds support in her unlikely quest from her best friend and musical collaborator Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay), her wheelchair-bound, chain-smoking Nana (Cathy Moriarty), and a black punk rocker anarchist named Basterd (Mamoudou Athie) who knows how to mix a beat. Patti Cake$ is an underdog story that takes some unpredictable turns along the way to a feel-good ending.
For lively discussion and debate on these movies and more, tune into the Cinema Clash podcast, also available on iTunes!